Enjoy low gas prices while they last

Tuesday, June 15, 2010
By Paul Martin

Falling costs may have ended, expect rise in July

By Mark Williams

It looks like the nearly six-week run in lower gasoline prices is just about over.

Gasoline prices have dropped about 8 percent since hitting $2.93 per gallon on May 6 on the back of lower oil prices. Pump prices fell 0.3 cent to a national average of $2.698 a gallon Monday, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service.

Prices are now about the same as the 2009 peak.

“We may wobble down another nickel or up a nickel, but what you see now on the street probably will be close to what you pay for July 4th weekend,” said OPIS’ Tom Kloza.

Kloza expects that prices likely will climb beginning in July as hurricane season starts in earnest and as new investments are made in crude for the third quarter. Investors worry that hurricanes can damage crude and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico and refineries along the Gulf coast. Shutdowns can send prices higher.

Gasoline prices have dropped 2.6 cents in the past week and are 17.9 cents below where they were a month ago. Prices are 3.5 cents higher than a year ago.

The Energy Information Administration will release its weekly report on retail gasoline prices later Monday.

Motorists have benefited as oil prices fell since reaching an 18-month-high of $87.15 a barrel in early May. Worries over the European debt crisis, a big drop in stock prices and a stronger dollar helped push oil below $70.

Prices have since come back, with benchmark crude for July delivery rising $1.77 to $75.61 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Monday. The contract lost $1.70 to settle at $73.78 on Friday.

Stock markets gained Monday as traders bet the global economic recovery will continue. Crude investors often look to equities as a barometer of overall investor sentiment. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up about 85 points in midday trading. The NASDAQ and the S&P 500 were up as well.

A weaker dollar and a stronger euro also helped oil prices. Since crude is priced in dollars it becomes cheaper to investors holding other currencies when the dollar loses value.

BP said Monday that the cost of its massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has risen to $1.6 billion. The estimate does not include future costs for lawsuits already filed against the company over the spill that began nearly two months ago. The spill, so far, has not affected oil prices, although BP shares have tumbled. BP stock was down almost 8 percent on Monday.

In other Nymex trading in July contracts, heating oil rose 4.06 cents to $2.0459 a gallon, and gasoline gained 4.24 cents at $2.0921 a gallon. Natural gas jumped 19 cents to $4.971 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Brent crude gained $1.52 at $75.87 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange.

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